Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Twenty Years Ago ...

Bluffton Today column
June 8, 2011

At Monday night’s Bluffton High School graduation, I listened to the senior speaker talk about the “unknown” territory to which they were all heading, and I found myself nodding in agreement. A few minutes later we heard hundreds of names reeled off, in quick succession, with barely enough time for each graduate to absorb the step that they were about to take.

This is the real world baby. And boy, if only they knew now that over the next decade (or two) they will be learning lessons that will serve them well into their twilight years. Don’t you wish you could tell them everything? And don’t you wish that they would listen?

But, we didn’t.

Some lessons you have to learn on your own.

In all fairness, I may be a little hyper-sensitive to the graduation chatter this year having recently received the invitation to my 20th reunion. Talk about a shock to the system.

20 years ago, I had just gotten home from the senior prom where I wore an orange dress, custom made by a little old lady named “Mrs. Tennis.” I still remember going to the fittings and her not understanding why I didn’t want to wear high heels with my dress. (Some things never change, Mrs. T.)

20 years ago, I was preparing the long list of things I would need for college. A television, cute clothes, an ATM card for quick access to beer money, the WVU Mountaineers football schedule, bedding to coordinate with my roommate’s (always the Martha Stewart I was), milk crates for storage. You know the really important stuff.

20 years ago, I was lamenting about leaving my high school boyfriend, Brian, at the end of the summer. And, would cry each time I read his yearbook entry that included this line, “Courtney, next year I will be lick (nope, not a typo) a lost puppy dog when you are gone.” Not much of a speller, that kid… but soooo cute.

20 years ago, I was shrugging into a white cap and gown, preparing to walk the dusty field of Brick High School. (A field that as a female athlete I was never allowed to step on, they reserved that honor for the boys’ football and soccer teams. Nope, not bitter after 20 years), concocting the story in my head, for my parents who were NEVER going to let me stay out all night.

If I had it all to do over again, I might make some minor tweaks. I would wear black to the prom. Orange isn’t exactly timeless. A little less hairspray might have gone a long way as well. I would consider the really important things, like what will my study schedule would be like when taking five college level courses. On that note, I might not have picked an institution of 20,000 students, 450 miles and seven hours from home, with a bar called the “Library” to start my college education. The list goes on and on. But, with each misstep I learned something.

As I look back on 20 years, I realize that my true education has far exceeded the college years. In fact, I have learned more in the last ten than I probably did in the first post-high school decade. I’ve learned that the world is about people. Not our titles, not our net worth, nor our good looks (where, as you know, my bounty is plentiful) … it is all about people.

So, as the seniors in our community graduate this week, I wish them well as they prepare for the arduous adventure of continuous learning, inside and outside the classroom.

And as they embark on the journey of life, I hope they remember to have fun and enjoy every minute. Because as Bluffton’s valedictorian and one of the world’s greatest teachers said,

“You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting - So, get on your way!”

Perhaps we could all learn a little something from the good Doctor Seuss.

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